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U.S. Car Buyers Are Open To Alternatives, Poll Shows

Environmental concerns and fuel costs are main reasons Americans are considerning alternative-fueled vehicles for their next vehicle purchase

While gasoline-fueled cars continue to dominate roads and auto dealerships in the U.S., many Americans are seriously considering an alternative-fueled vehicle for their next vehicle purchase, according to a new Wall Street Journal Online/ Harris Interactive personal-finance poll.

Of those planning to buy or lease a new vehicle, one-quarter said they would seriously consider a hybrid vehicle, which has a combination of a gasoline engine and an electric motor, compared with 37% who said they will most likely consider a gasoline-fueled vehicle. Seven percent said they would seriously consider an ethanol-fueled vehicle, and 2% would consider a vehicle with a diesel engine, according to the online survey of 2,516 adults.

The poll shows potential buyers living in the Northeast are the most likely to consider a gasoline-fueled vehicle, while those in the West are more likely to consider a vehicle using alternative fuel.

While few alternative-fuel vehicles populate U.S. highways today, more and more Americans are likely to choose these cars as they continue to feel the pinch of high gasoline prices, says Scott Upham, senior vice president of automotive and transportation research practice at Harris Interactive.

Nearly half of those surveyed who said they would consider an alternative-fuel vehicle cite the environmental benefits as the reason for their choice. But nearly the same percentage say reducing fuel costs would be their top reason for choosing these vehicles.

The poll showed that women are nearly twice as likely as men to say they would choose an alternative or hybrid car because they are better for the environment. And those who reside in the West are also much more likely to consider environmental impact, the poll shows.

The poll also asked car buyers how much more they would be willing to pay for a vehicle that runs on alternative fuel over a traditional gasoline-powered version of the same vehicle. About 8% of those who would consider an alternative-fuel vehicle said they wouldn't pay anything extra, while 16% said they would pay $20,000 or more over the cost of a gasoline-engine vehicle. Just over a quarter of poll respondents said they would pay up to $1,000 extra for an alternative-fuel vehicle.

On the subject of money, one-third of poll respondents said the annual percentage rate of the loan would be the most important financial factor when making their next vehicle purchase or lease, while 25% said the down payment requirements would matter most.

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